English Vinglish

12oct_EnglishVinglish-MovieReview

En route to China, I saw several films including English Vinglish, an Indian film about Shashi, a woman whose husband and children often tease her about her bad English. To make matters worse, they don’t appreciate her talents like her gift for making amazing Indian sweets called ladoos. When Manu, Shashi’s sister in America, needs her to visit to help plan her daughter’s wedding, Shashi’s nervous. How will she survive in New York with such bad English?

In the beginning it looks like Sashi won’t. She’s nervous and overwhelmed by the rude and fast paced society. Yet she takes action and secretly takes English lessons while her sister’s at work. Her classmates and goofy teacher provide a support system and her language improves. What’s more she’s caught the attention of Laurent, a French chef who’s smitten by her beauty and charm.

The film has a sweet and sentimental tone, that wouldn’t succeed in Hollywood. Shashi is innocent as are the other characters. Yet I got pulled in despite the treacle. I was intrigued that the film didn’t follow the typical path that a Hollywood film would. Instead we’re led to a final scene where Shashi gives a persuasive, touching speech in English on the virtue of remaining true to a spouse when a marriage is hit by inertia and overfamiliarity. I was surprised by how fresh that speech was. I think the innocent tone of the film, the color and the spontaneous dancing and singing worked for me.

For Valentine’s Day: Best Romantic Comedies

For me Nora Ephron leads the pack for modern films and Audrey Hepburn stars in some of the best “oldies.”

  1. You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. As a book lover the loss of the book store adds poignancy.
  2. Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn, William Holden and Humphrey Bogart. A perfect Cinderella story.
  3. When Harry Met Sally with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. Just perfect. I loved the scenes with the older couples.
  4. Notting Hill, with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant.
  5. My Fair Lady, a musical based on Shaw’s Pigmailion, starring Audrey Hepburn and Harrison
  6. Roman Holiday, Audrey’s break out film with Gregory Peck.
  7. French Kiss, with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline, you get to see France and Ryan. The film’s not terrific but the setting and Ryan make it worthwhile.
  8. Annie Hall, a Woody Allen classic, starring Diane Keaton. Sometimes moving on is the happy ending.
  9. Something’s Gotta Give, Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson show that even those over 35 can find new love.
  10. Philadelphia Story with Katharine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant.

I admit I like any romantic comedy with a smart heroine.

Downton Abbey: Season 3 Episode 6

baby sybil

Can’t believe Robert and Tom are side by side outside an RC church

Can we already be at week 6 with only one more week of Downton?

Believe it or not, yes.

The black of mourning for Sybil has been replaced by violet by the second hour. My very well read aunt said that after they wore black, mourners could change to gray or violet. Yet, I’m not sure why Edith was wearing whatever color she wanted, creme or red while Cora, Mary and I think Violet stayed in black.

Sybil is baptized Catholic against Lord Grantham’s wishes. He does attend the baptism and manages a forced smile when photographed with the baby, his mother and the priest. Tom’s brother, a real Irish rebel, who’s a bull in a china shop, comes to Downton and plunks himself down to hold court in the servants’ hall until Tom drags him upstairs.

The big story was with Thomas who falls into O’Brien’s trap and creeps into James’ room and makes a move on sleeping James, who wanted no such action. All hell breaks loose. No matter what your orientation sneaking into someone with whom you have no intimacy with and kissing them is not welcome, cool, or smart. Thomas learns that the hard way.

Alfred catches Thomas with James and soon Carson’s told. Dismissal with a good reference is the plan till O’Brien convinces James he better insist that Thomas get no reference, which means no chance of future employment (unless he goes to North America or Australia). I was surprised by how accepting all the characters were of this validation of Thomas’ sexual orientation. Only Carson was steeped in conservative thinking. But at the end all’s well and Thomas will stay. Considering how disloyal and plotting Thomas was, I felt they lost an opportunity as a staff. If Carson and Lord Grantham were wise, they’d let him go with a good reference. I really couldn’t believe that Bates went the extra mile to save Thomas, a man who’s plotted against him time and again. Given time, Thomas is sure to pay him back with deceit.

Edith’s editor flirts with her so just a few months after Sir Anthony has jilted her, Edith already has a good occupation and the possibility of love. Well, poor Edith’s cursed and she learns that the editor is married. He explains that his wife is in an asylum. Since she’s read The Scarlet Letter, we can assume Edith’s read Jane Eyre. How I hope she has the good sense to send him packing. Be strong, Edith! Be the first young woman who’s sisters outshine her who actually has the gumption to distance herself from a flirtatious married man who’s spun a good tale.

Robert eventually agrees to implement Matthew’s ideas for improving the management of Downton. It wasn’t easy, but everyone except Jarvis, the manager who wants to run everything as he did when Victoria reigned, join Matthew’s camp.

Rose, a cousin from London, is sent to stay with Violet. Violet’s happy to have a new project, I mean guest under her roof. However, Rose soon tags along with Edith and Matthew to London. She slips out and meets up with her married lover at a dance club. She’s a handful to put it mildly. She’ll no doubt replace Sybil as the lively young beauty, but while Sybil was into social justice, Rose just wants to be social. Here comes trouble. Soon after arriving, Violet’s figured out how to get Rose to leave early.

I was glad that Tom has decided to stay on rather than to go up to Liverpool.

Extras

Mourning customs in Edwardian England

For those nerds out there:

Bedikian, S. A. (2008). The Death of Mourning: From Victorian Crepe to the Little Black Dress. Omega: Journal Of Death & Dying57(1), 35-52. doi:10.2190/OM.57.1.c
N.B. Victorian era predates Edwardian when Downton Abbey is set.

 

Armed & Ready

A few years back I met Kevin Connolly when he stayed with my friend in Aspen during the X-Games. He’s smart, down to earth and adventurous. I bet this will be well worth watching.

Argo

argo
Based on a true story, Argo portrays the CIA’s outlandish, and eventually successful, attempt to rescue six Foreign Service agents who had escaped to the Canadian Ambassador’s house in Iran when the embassy was under siege.

I found the movie riveting from the titles to the credits. The imagery featuring news footage and cool action drawings for storyboards, which worked well together. The acting was superb. Ben Affleck, who also directs, John Goodman and Alan Arkin were terrific and compelling. The deft use of actual news footage gave the film veracity and the brisk pacing added to the tension.

I didn’t know about this event, even though it was declassified by President Clinton. I was pulled into the crisis and fascinated that the solution, the best of the bad ideas, was low tech and bizarre. Also, this look at people who’re willing to sacrifice for their country without fan fare does appeal to me. Argo is a film well worth seeing. I’ll probably see it again soon.

Life of Pi

Life-of-Pi2

Based on Yann Martel’s imaginative novel, Life of Pi chronicles the amazing life of Pi Patel a boy whose family owns a zoo in India. When the zoo goes under, Pi’s father uproots his family and takes some of the animals to sell in Canada.

On the voyage to Canada, a terrible storm kicks up and only Pi and three wild animals, a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a tiger named Richard Parker survive on the lifeboat. Soon only the tiger and Pi remain on the vast sea under the intense sun. It’s riveting to see Pi figure out how to evade sharks, keep out of the sun, eat and share space with a tiger – and not some docile, domesticated feline, but a tiger who’ll eat a hyena or most likely a teenage boy if nothing else is around.

Since I’d read the book, I didn’t think this book was filmable. It’s just too unique. I’m happy to say this version worked. How amazing! The film is beautiful with incredible CGI for the bulk of the film and lovely local color shots of India and the zoo at the start.

There were some parts I didn’t think worked. The story if framed with a contrivance that a drifting writer met an acquaintance of Pi’s who told the writer he must hear Pi’s story. I just didn’t buy that this guy would actually bother to track down Pi. I wouldn’t – unless it turned out Pi was a neighbor, I’d never met back home. That character was just bland and a device to get Pi to tell his story.

At the end two Japanese employees of the shipping company meet with Pi to find out what happened. That scene seemed flat as the two actors just didn’t have Japanese body language and the way they behaved was just not believable. No Japanese person I’ve met would express skepticism so directly and they wouldn’t challenge someone in the hospital that way. It just came off as flat.

On the whole the film amazed me and the actor who played Pi was outstanding. It made me want to reread the novel.

Nickel and Dimed

Northwestern dramatized Barbara Enrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed” href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel_and_Dimed” target=”_blank” rel=”wikipedia”>Nickel and Dimed with great success. This three act play follows Enrenreich, a journalist who went undercover in Florida, Maine and Minnesota taking low paying jobs like waiting tables, cleaning houses and working at “Mall Mart.”

The cast was good especially Laura Winters, the star who was a likeable everywoman. Though it was hard to believe Winters was in her 50s, that wasn’t important. I hope to see Winters in more roles after she graduates.

What matters is that a privileged woman finds out how hard it is to get by on minimum wage, to find a decent place to live on meager wages. Enrenreich came to respect and understand her coworkers more than she expected.

The play, like the book, is a compelling look at those exploited by our economy.

<em>Nickel and Dimed</em> will be shown next weekend.

Waking the Dead

waking_the_dead_wideweb__470x360Waking the Dead is a British reliable, sturdy police procedure. While it’s not in the same league as Luther, it entertains. Waking the Dead depicts a cold case police unit and each crime is solved in two hour long episodes. Episode one and two revolved around solving the case of a teenage girl who was abducted, raped and murdered.

The hero is Det. Sup. Peter Boyd who was on this case the first time. He wants to make up for botching the case. We get a little, but not much of his personal life. Mainly the show is about solving the case, which is fine. Boyd’s not flamboyant, very no nonsense. The drama lies with the situation with the occasional conflict amongst team members.

There was enough here to keep me watching and to watch again.